The distribution of genetic diversity in Mycelis muralis, or wall lettuce, was investigated at a European scale using 12 microsatellite markers to infer historical and contemporary forces from genetic patterns. Mycelis muralis has the potential for long-distance seed dispersal by wind, is mainly self-pollinated, and has patchily distributed populations, some of which may show metapopulation dynamics. A total of 359 individuals were sampled from 17 populations located in three regions, designated southern Europe (Spain and France), the Netherlands, and Sweden. At this within-region scale, contemporary evolutionary forces (selfing and metapopulation dynamics) are responsible for high differentiation between populations (0.34 < FST < 0.60) but, contrary to expectation, levels of within-population diversity, estimated by Nei's unbiased expected heterozygosity (HE) (0.24 < HE < 0.68) or analyses of molecular variance (50% of the variation found within-populations), were not low. We suggest that the latter results, which are unusual in selfing species, arise from efficient seed dispersal that counteracts population turnover and thus maintains genetic diversity within populations. At the European scale, northern regions showed lower allelic richness (A = 2.38) than populations from southern Europe (A = 3.34). In light of postglacial colonization hypotheses, these results suggest that rare alleles may have been lost during recolonization northwards. Our results further suggest that mutation has contributed to genetic differentiation between southern and northern Europe, and that Sweden may have been colonized by dispersers originating from at least two different refugia.
2004. Vol. 13, no 6, 1391-1407 p.